Thursday, April 26, 2012

Test Prep Huddle!

In order to prepare ourselves for Tuesday and Wednesday's Stanford Test, we did a few "mini tests" today.  The students practiced taking timed tests as we worked a page or two at a time.  When they finished each page, we stopped to review each missed problem, together.  It was a great way to get in all of the useful tips, like using the process of elimination, going back to a problem in the section that you are unsure of if you have extra time, and so on.  We worked through three mini tests throughout the day.  At the end of the day, we all huddled together in a tight little pile, around around the person next to us.  This was a time for reassurance.  No nervousness, no jitters... We are going with friends and everyone will do just fine!  They decided that they wanted to wear their class shirts to Sharpsburg on Tuesday, for the test.  I am confident that our little group will go in there more comfortable and more prepared than they would have been just last week!

Grammar-  We are ending the school year with review lessons.  Today, we reviewed the different types of verbs, nouns (common and proper), and pronouns.  There are only a few more lessons in the workbook!  Once we are through with those, we will use our knowledge to play some fun review games!

Reading/Writing- We are almost finished with Hamlet!  It was an AWESOME reading day today, as the kids were thrilled to learn that all of those times they have seen people stand up, holding up a skull, and talking in funny fancy language... they are reciting Hamlet!  Oh, the fun they had standing up, hand raised tall, and reciting, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio".  After reading the next few pages, we worked a little on their summaries of the story.  This is a huge paper that they have been working on... and we are so close to being finished with them!  But... I am realizing that they may not be able to finish them, and do them justice, by the end of class.  This was an assignment that they took off with... each of them.  They are longer and more detailed than I ever dreamed they would be, and I do not want to cut them short.  And so... We will continue to work on them in class.  But, once school has ended, they can revise then and polish them up, make a video reading their prose, and post them for everyone to see!  They could be simple... just reading it in front of the camera, they could be in costume, they could draw pictures... but we all would love to hear their final masterpiece!  Technology, the lack of a rigid educational environment, and the value these awesome parents place on education, give us the option NOT to have to compromise on the quality of our work!

Math- After reviewing our long division sheets from yesterday, we had a big math review with our standardized testing practice test.  Like before, we stopped after each page to review any missed problems together on the board.  There were a couple problems that looked daunting to the entire class.  However, I was able to show them a great trick.  Look at the answers given.  Then, if you do not know how to work the problem out the traditional way, plug each probable solution into the problem.  Just find the one that works out!  One of the kids looked at me as if I had just handed her a magic code!  Success!

Agriculture Workshop, Day 3-  Today's class began with a big discussion on our little chickies.  They are on day 14 of development today... and going strong!  I am hoping not to have to move the incubator again, as they will be going into "lockdown" on Monday, and should hatch on Thursday.  I don't want to shake them up!  After learning how these little guys will position themselves in the egg, "pip" into the airsac, and then "pip" and "zip" themselves out of the shell, we candled a few.  With all 17 or so children in a dark room, we held the eggs up to the light and saw moving little embryos inside.  I reminded the class not to "count their chickens before they hatch", but it's so hard!

Social Studies- The kids showed off their posters today.  They have been working on a poster to illustrate an amendment to the Constitution.  The results were great!   I love that they are able to get excited about showing off their work to their peers, and have supportive, positive, classmates who think that posters about amendments are "cool"!

Science- We split science up into two classes this week.  The physics lecture was on Tuesday, and the Lego robotics activity was today.  The students continued to put their new-found knowledge of cams and levers to use as they worked, as a group, to make a drum-playing monkey!  Yet again, they did an amazing job of taking turns and working together.  They went in a circle, each completing a step in the directions.  They troubleshooted, discussed, and resolved conflicts better than a lot of adults can!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Que Seurat, Seurat.

Poetry- The class is doing a fabulous job with their memorization of “A Time To Talk”! We are going to create our video the week of May 7th-11th. If you happen to have a pair of overalls, you will need to wear them that week!

Grammar- In grammar today, the class learned a new part of speech: Interjections. Although they had already heard of interjections, they did not know how to diagram them! Interjections are separated from the rest of the sentence by either a comma or an exclamation mark. In the diagram, the interjection is separated completely from the rest of the diagram, floating above the subject!

Standardized Testing will be Tuesday and Wednesday. We will be heading to Sharpsburg to take the Stanford Test, at the Classical Conversations location.  We have been working on test practice, which will will work more with on Thursday.
Reading- We read up to page 45 in Hamlet today. The plot thickens, as Hamlet's “mousetrap” catches King Claudius! We discussed the scene in which Claudius prays for forgiveness, “Forgive me, my foul murder?” Although he speaks the words, we talked about how even Claudius recognized that you cannot speak the words and be forgiven without actually being sorry! We worked on our summaries today, which are coming together so nicely!

Math- Today was a day of repeat, repeat, repeat. We worked on long division... together and individually. The process of divide, multiply, subtract, and carry down can be tricky. We will stick here, working on mastering this skill, for as long as it takes!

Science- In science today, Ms. Caroline taught the kids about work, energy, potential energy, and kinetic energy. They also learned about the different forms of energy: Chemical, Electrical, Light, Mechanical, Thermal, and Nuclear. Needless to say, nuclear energy caused the biggest “spark” among the kids. How on Earth does splitting a tiny nucleus of an atom create so much energy?

Social Studies- Mr. Dennis lead the class through the skit, “Lewis and Clark Return”. They discussed the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Art- The topic of the day was pointillism. Ms. Nancy taught the class about Georges Seurat. The students drew an animal onto sandpaper, coloring it in very heavy crayon. Then, they ironed the image onto white paper. The result was a mirror image, created by little dots! We learned that the crayon has to be very thick for it to work, but I think they looked great!  It's a technique that I see us using in art projects at home, as well.  Sometimes it is a great lesson for this very perfectionist group of kids when a project doesn't follow the path that they have planned.  As adults, how many times do our projects or even days go as planned?  It's important not only to "go with the flow", but to embrace the beauty in the imperfection!

Music- In music today, Mrs. Beresford told a musical story, which walked the class through their packets of mini-songs. In the story, the trumpets sounded for the Middle C March, announcing a marching band! It was a brilliant way to keep learning fun and engaging. The class will be working on their packets at home, and will be tested over them a week from Tuesday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Egg Update!

I wanted to give you an update on our eggs in the incubator.  The temperature has remained between 99.1 and 100.4, which is perfect.  I try to keep the humidity (before "lockdown") to about 40%.  Sometimes, the humidity drops.  Why do you think that would be?  It's because the water that you put into the bottom of the incubator all evaporated away!  You have to add some more water to the little trough in the bottom of the incubator to raise the humidity level.  You can see in the picture that the temperature inside the incubator is 98.8.  The reason that it is registering a little low is because the thermometer was on its side, down low.  Do you know why the temperature would be lower at the bottom of the incubator than it is at the top?  Heat rises!  In order to get an accurate reading, you need to keep the thermometer at the same level in the incubator as the eggs.  You can also see in the picture that the humidity was 30%.  The hydrometer let me know that I needed to add some more water to the trough.

I do not like to move the eggs very much... and I needed a way to add water to the little trough without disturbing things inside the incubator.  So, I made a little funnel contraption out of a baby bottle nipple and a fat smoothie straw!  This lets me add water exactly where I need to, without even having to open the incubator.  During lockdown, I can slide the straw right into the air vent hole and add any water that I need to!

I took another picture of the hydrometer/thermometer to show how the humidity rose when I added the warm water.  But, as you can see, it rose too much!  This is because the water was a bit warmer than it should have been.  Warm water evaporates more quickly into the air.  So, I just took the little red cap off of  the air vent at the top of the incubator to decrease the humidity.   We will candle the eggs on Thursday, which will be day 14 of incubation!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Bees Knees!

Spelling- Today, we took turns writing the tougher spelling words on the whiteboard. Writing them with a dry erase marker is SO much more fun than just writing them on paper or saying them out loud!

Poetry- Continue to work on “A Time to Talk” at home. We will be making a video of this short poem in a couple weeks!

Grammar- Today, after going through yesterday's at-home work together, we reviewed comparative and superlative adjectives. We also did a review lesson on adverbs that describe other adverbs, adverbs that describe verbs, and adverbs that describe adjectives. They are doing a great job with their sentence diagrams!

Agricultural Ed- What a treat we had today! Tom Bonnell, President of the Henry County Beekeepers Association and County Extension Agent, came and spoke to the class about beekeeping. It wasn't just the kids that learned today, I was amazed by all of the cool facts about bees! Tom taught us how the bees determine which caste, or class, the newly laid eggs will need to be born into. They can be workers, drones, or another Queen. We learned about the complex life cycle of worker bees. It is absolutely amazing! Tom brought a smoker, a hive, and a beekeeping suit to show us. We learned about the different parts of the hive, and the supplies needed to start a beekeeping hobby. A big “thanks” to Tom for the awesome lesson today!

Math- We have been learning how to add and subtract fractions. Today, we learned how to reduce fractions to their simplest forms, and how to find equivalent fractions. We also used manipulatives to help us grasp the concept of improper fractions. It took a while, but eventually, they all grasped that eight fifths is actually ONE and 3/5. By handing them pie pieces that illustrated nine sixths, they were able to piece them together to visually SEE that it made ONE and ½. I encourage everyone to continue to point out fractions in daily life!

Science-Ms. Caroline and I walked the class over to the playground today, where they were able to see the topics that they are learning in their physics unit... in motion!  Ms. Caroline brought four different materials:  posterboard, a rubbery home plate, a trash bag, and a towel.  The kids took turns on the slide, sitting on each item and comparing the role that friction plays in their speeds.  After each child took turns on the items, they put them in order, from least amount of friction to most!  Ms. Caroline discussed how gravity and momentum makes us swing on a swing.  The class learned about air resistance, testing it out with two pieces of paper of equal sizes and weights, but one was wadded up into a ball!  Finally, the class demonstrated levers and center of gravity on the see-saw.

After our playground lesson, we returned to the schoolhouse to begin our Lego Activity.  I taught the class the different parts of a lever: the fulcrum/pivot point, the load/resistance arm, and the effort arm.  I also showed them how a cam works, so they can understand the role that it will play in their Lego Machine Project!  They began work on their level/cam Lego activity today, but they will not finish it until next week.  I can't wait to see it in action!

 Standardized Test Prep- We went over the practice sheets that students completed at home, discussing terms that caused some confusion, such as "biography" and "genre".  I used this time to give some tips for taking tests... make your best guess, use the process of elimination, and make sure to read ALL of the directions!  Also, I explained the the kids how the tests will be scored electronically.  This helped them to understand why they need to color in the bubbles on the sheet, carefully.  Many of them did not know that a computer would be scoring them... so they were unaware that simply circling the bubble would not count!  Although we are spending some time on practice tests, I am not worried about these children one bit.  I know they will do just fine!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Taking Root

Spelling- Whew! List 31 is a difficult one! We went through and discussed the spellings of each word. The class will be working on the words at home so that weS can play a review game with them on Thursday.

Poetry- Everyone has done so well with “A Time To Talk”. They will be working to memorize this poem so that we can make another video, hopefully on Thursday, May 3rd!

Grammar- We had a very busy grammar class today! We had a huge review of the four types of verbs, direct objects, predicate nominatives, predicate adjectives, and articles. We discussed and practiced diagramming sentences with each of the parts of speech that we have learned so far. Then, we moved on to comparative and superlative adjectives.

Agricultural Ed- The class took a trip across the street to see how
their seedlings are doing in the garden.  They learned to crush up eggshells and mix it into the soil around squash and zucchini plants.  This acts as a natural pesticide for slugs, snails, and many garden bugs!  Like diatomaceous earth (which is ground up fossils of freshwater organisms), the egg shells act as a mechanical pesticide, actually slicing the exterior of the bugs, causing them to die.

Math- Today's math lesson was all about fractions. The class learned how to add and subtract fractions with the same denominator. Although it can be tricky to remember, they did a great job putting fractions in order from smallest to greatest. The denominator might be bigger, but they just need to remember that it means that the whole is cut into smaller pieces! We also spent time remembering that 3/3, 10/10, 7/7, etc equals a whole (1). Point out situations that can be thought of in terms of fractions at home.... 5/8 of the pizza was eaten, 1/3 of the siblings were crying, 2/3 of the gallon of milk was spilled on the floor... the possibilities are endless!

Social Studies- The class did a great job on their monstrous crossword puzzle from yesterday! Today, they did a Cloze Activity with the U.S. Constitution. Then, they discussed The Bill Of Rights and later amendments. They will be choosing one of the 27 amendments and creating a poster at home. Information on the poster can be found on the Homework Hideout page. On Thursday, April 26th, the students will bring in and show off their posters!

Art- The class continued their ocean scenes today. The creativity flowed as they cut paper, painted with watercolors, and positioned sea creatures among their sea floor. Ms. Nancy unknowingly prompted a classroom round of “There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea” as they worked!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Agricultural Workshop: Day 1

Today was the first day of our agricultural education workshop!
Thank you to the Fayette County Farm Bureau for helping us make it great!

The topic of today was chicken reproduction.  The class learned about the different parts of the egg, and the rolls they play in the development of a baby chick.  The class learned to tell if a freshly laid egg was fertilized or not!  We cracked open an egg from the store, as well as an egg from our flock of free range marans.  It didn't take much for them to see the difference in the thickness of the shells!  I explained that the egg from the store was laid from a chicken who most likely doesn't get to roam around, pecking at bugs and such.  Actually, it was probably laid by a hen that is encouraged to lay throughout the winter with assistance from artificial light.  You see, chickens take cures from nature to know when to slow down on laying eggs.  As the days get shorter, the chickens lay less.  This is a good rest for the chicken, and prevents chicks from being born when it is too cold for them to survive.  However, it does not help feed a massive, and rapidly growing, population of people in the world.  Although there is a need for available, affordable foods, there is also a benefit of high quality eggs from happy, healthy, free range chickens!

The class learned how even though hens lay an egg each day, or every other day, they all begin developing a chick at the same time:  When the hen sets or when they are placed in an incubator!  We discussed the fertilization, incubation, and gestation of chicken eggs, thermometers, hydrometers, thermostats, and humidity.  We even learned a bit of chicken genetics!  You see, our eggs came from a pen with a blue copper maran rooster, a blue copper maran hen, and a splash (white with black dots) maran.  Each combination results in a different ratio of colors.

 Here is a breakdown of the different combinations:

Blue (Bb) X Blue (Bb) = 50% Blue (Bb), 25% Black (BB),   
                                   25% Splash (bb)
Blue (Bb) X Splash (bb) = 50% Blue (Bb), 50% Splash (bb)
Blue (Bb) X Black (BB) = 50% Blue (Bb), 50% Black (BB)
Splash (bb) X Black (BB) = 100% Blue (Bb)
Black (BB) X Black (BB) = 100% Black (BB)
Splash (bb) X Splash (bb) = 100% Splash (bb)

In our pen, we had two combinations, Blue X Blue and Blue X Splash.  So, in order to find out the possible ratio for the eggs in our incubator, we had to do some chicken math!  The result was that our eggs should, in theory,  have roughly 50% Blue Copper Marans, 37.5% Splash Marans, and 12.5% Black Copper Marans.  I did remind the class that chickens DON'T DO MATH!  So, we'll have to wait 21 days to see what hatches!

The class put the eggs into the incubator, and now we wait.  We will be candling them later to see how development is going!  They are set to hatch on May 3rd!

Grammar- Today, the class learned how to diagram sentences with compound verbs.  Now that they have diagrammed compound subjects and compound direct objects, it wasn't hard at all to apply their logic to verbs.  They could even diagram sentences with compound subjects AND verbs with ease!

Reading/Writing-  Oh, what schemes are being concocted in Hamlet!  We read more in our "Hamlet for Kids" book today.  Then, the students' pencils were FLYING as they added to their own summaries of the play.  The amount of creativity, focus, and determination on these writing assignments is amazing!  I cannot wait to finish the book, finish the summaries, and hear the wonderful prose that they have written!

Math- Today was another lesson in borrowing multiple times in a single math problem.  I believe in practice, practice, practice!  So, after another illustration on the conceptual reasoning behind the skill, the kids worked on a math subtraction crossword puzzle.  We will be working on this at home on Friday and Monday, as well!

 Science- We began our physics unit today!  Ms. Caroline came and taught the class about movement and friction.  Using a marble and a paper towel tube, she demonstrated types of energy. As the marble is held at the top of the tube, the marble is said to have "potential energy." The marble is positioned above the surface of the earth, and it has the potential to do work thanks to the force of gravity pulling down on it. As she lets go of the marble, it rolls down the tube. At this point, work is taking place, called "kinetic energy."   After the lecture on physics, the kids had a lesson in gears.  Using Legos, they learned how to "gear up" (use a smaller gear to make the machine move faster than the speed of the motor) or "gear down" (use a larger gear to make the machine move slower than the speed of the motor).  Once this concept was mastered, they used it to create a machine that spins a top!  They all worked, as a group, to create their project.  Then, they took turns using their creation!

Social Studies- Today, Mr. Dennis continued his lesson on the branches of government and the U.S Constitution.  The children utilized Venn diagrams and charts to answer questions about the lesson.  We will be beginning a poster project next week!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Although our day was supposed to begin with spelling class, we took a detour into basic programming, instead. Sunday night, I added new social studies work to Homework Hideout. Because I wanted to be sure everyone noticed it, I announced the addition in red, blinking letters. It seems these blinking letters were a hit. Because each student has decided to start their own blog, they know that there is no option to click and add “blink” to your text. The kids know how to make words bold, underlined, or change their color, but “How on Earth did you make your words BLINK?!”

I grabbed the white board marker and explained how most simple websites are created using html. I explained that those little buttons that they click to make their words bold are actually adding the html tag <bold> </bold> to each side of the words that they wrote. They didn't realize that all of those cute websites, with colors and pictures and videos, are actually lines of code... giving the instructions for what you see. I compared this to our bodies... We have clothes, glasses, hair, necklaces, and all sorts of attractive things on the outside of our bodies. But, the insides of our bodies have all of the important “guts” that, although they aren't pretty to look at, make us tick! On Homework Hideout, I will explain how they can see the source code to Homework Hideout. It may look like a jumbly mess, but it is what lays out the webpage so that they can see what work to do at home.

Finally, I showed them the html tag for “blink”, and showed them how to edit the html of their blog posts. I am hoping to see some blinking letters show up on one of their blogs!

Spelling- We reviewed and discussed the spelling of each word in list 30. Because of all of the homophones in the list, we spend time learning the correct usages of if's, its, they're, there, and their. They put their knowledge to the test with a fill-in the blank activity, which we checked together.

Grammar- Today, the students learned how to diagram sentences with compound verbs. Only a month ago, they were looking ahead in their workbooks and gasping at how hard all of these diagrams were going to be. But, now that we've stepped our way towards the back of the book, they aren't hard at all! I love watching them recognize how far they have come, and how learning is incremental. They also reviewed prepositions, prepositional phrases, and objects of prepositions today. Although most of them have the list of prepositions memorized, it can sometimes be hard to point them out in a sentence. I got out the big roll of paper, and we spent time writing each preposition down-- all over the place! Beneath could go beneath another word, above could go at the top, under could go under a word. They drew “aboard” aboard a ship. Writing each of the words down and thinking about their meanings (and recognizing that not all of them can be drawn in context, like “at” and “of”), will hopefully help make them easier to locate!

Math- Today was one of those “put on your thinking cap” days. The students learned how to borrow down a line of place values. For instance, when subtracting 17 from 8000, you will need to borrow from the next place value over, which doesn't have enough to share. So, I explained that you have to “break open the big 1000 pack” and share down the line. After some visual demonstrations of breaking apart a 1000 block to get ten 100's, and breaking open one of those 100's to get ten 10's, and then sharing one of those 10's by breaking it down into 10 ones, they were able to master the concept! We will be working more on this at home tomorrow, as well as in class again on Thursday. I was very proud of them for all that they accomplished today!

Social Studies- Today, the class learned about the Constitutional Convention and the different plans for representation. They learned about the importance of compromise in government and how the Constitution was ratified. They continue to work on reading comprehension (well above grade level, mind you), and answered questions pertaining to their reading.

Reading/Writing- Today, we spent time catching up on our Hamlet summaries. The kids have been working so hard on their own versions of the story of Hamlet. We will continue to add to these as we make our way through “Hamlet for Kids”!

Art- It was a day “Under the Sea” today in art class! Ms. Nancy helped the kids think of all of the creatures that live under the sea. They used real sand to create their sea floors, and designed sea creatures that they painted, cut, and pasted into their scene. Once the kids got past sharing every bit of sea trivia that they could possibly think of, they created some beautiful works of art!

Music- Ms. Fanette knows what makes these kids tick! She is working with the children to go over the concepts that they will be tested over at the end of the school year. They did a sight reading exercise that incorporated the things they have learned during their flashcard practice. As a reward for their focused attention, she taught them how to play the theme song to Star Wars!